The New York Post’s editorial board went personal yesterday in “RFK Jr.’s vaccine villainy,” an over-the-top, cheap-shots attack on Robert Kennedy’s opposition to mandatory vaccinations. We don’t quarrel with the Post’s right to disagree with Kennedy on the merits of mandatory vaccinations, or to sneer at him and Democratic legislators who side with him, unseemly as it is.
But the Post’s attack would be more credible if it substantiated its various claims and, at a minimum, got its facts right.
“Kennedy claims a vast government conspiracy is responsible for kids being injected with thimerosal, which he says causes autism,” the Post says. “Thimerosal does not cause autism or any other disorder. Indeed, it was removed from pediatric vaccines 14 years ago.”
For starters, the Post should have known that thimerosal has not been removed from pediatric vaccines, although its reference to “14 years ago” is noteworthy — that’s when the government began to have thimerosal removed. As explained on the website of the FDA, “the Food and Drug Administration has worked with, and continues to work with, vaccine manufacturers to reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines.” Thimerosal, half of which is ethylmercury, a mercury compound, is feared dangerous.
The FDA lists in its tables 10 vaccines by various manufacturers that still have thimerosal, which remains in use either as a preservative in the vaccine or as a sterilizing agent in the manufacture of the vaccine. Of those 10, 4 are on the FDA’s list of “Vaccines Routinely Recommended for Children 6 Years of Age and Younger” and others, though not routinely recommended, are nevertheless administered to children when thought advisable.
New York Post is also wrong to present thimerosal as a substance that flat-out does not cause “any disorder.” While the government believes that the benefit of thimerosal-containing vaccines outweighs the risk involved, it doesn’t rule out the risk. To the contrary, the FDA says that relatively little is known about the health hazards associated with ethylmercury, which constitutes the worrisome half of thimerosal. In the absence of conclusive evidence that ethylmercury is safe in the human body, the FDA has adopted guidelines for it similar to those for methylmercury, which is known to be dangerous. As one of its examples: “The fetus is considered more sensitive to health effects of methylmercury than adults. In recent years some studies have found adverse health effects of methylmercury at levels previously thought to be safe.”
Moreover, other credible sources point to concerns about thimerosal in the very young. “Thimerosal causes tics” in children born to women vaccinated during pregnancy, according to William Thompson, a senior CDC scientist, who also states that “there is biologic plausibility right now to say that thimerosal causes autism-like symptoms.”
The New York Post receives two Band-aids for erroneously telling its readers that children’s vaccines no longer have any thimerosal and another Band-aid for wrongly assuming that the science is settled on thimerosal.